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Report: Fellaini, Lingard and Valencia fire United into fifth

Manchester United beat Middlesbrough 3-1 at the Riverside with Marouane Fellaini scoring the opening goa in the 30th minute of the match. Jesse Lingard then doubled Unite’s lead with a stunning goal in the 62nd minute, before Rudy Gestede got one back for Boro in the 77th minute. Antonio Valencia scored a third with Victor Valdes on the floor in the dying minutes of the match to secure the victory and rise United up to fifth in the Premier League, sending Arsenal into sixth place.

Jose Mourinho made seven changes from the Rostov match with David De Gea, Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard all being involved from the start today. One thing is for certain, Manchester United will not end up in sixth place by the end of today; they will either remain in seventh where they started the day or in fifth place, which is what needs to be happening. United started well from the off, getting a chance through Marcus Rashford who forced Victor Valdes into a low save. Eight minutes later, Middlesbrough had their first chance through Gaston Ramirez with David De Gea parrying his curling effort.

The home side has more possession in the opening fifteen minutes of the match, but a chance to each makes it a fair fight so far. United are missing some creative influence with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial all not starting, but the two not suspended are on the bench, should they be needed. United had another great chance in the 23rd minute but Valdes made a double save with both Marcus Rashford and Antonio Valencia both attempting to break the deadlock, unlucky. Michael Carrick tried to get something the attack also, firing over the crossbar. Juan Mata’s positioning was good in that attack.

Phil Jones found himself with a booking for a challenge on Alvaro Negredo in the 25th minute of the match, nothing came of the resulting free-kick. In the 30th minute of the match, after repeated attacks from United with players sneaking in at the back, United took the lead through a Marouane Fellaini header, assisted by Ashley Young. United maintained their attacking style after the goal, seemingly looking to double their lead. Jesse Lingard fired a long-range effort towards goal, which was deflected for a corner. United were unable to gain anything from the corner.

The first half ended with United 1-0 up through Fellaini, but also having ten shot; four of those on target, three off target and three being blocked. Mourinho’s side played well in the first half, despite having less than 40% of the ball, getting more chances in the important areas. The void left by Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba is visible, as United’s passing and possession is not so good. Maybe those who have been writing Pogba off as a failure need to take note of that. United need to put this match to bed in the second half with Boro passing eight hours since their last goal in the Premier League.

United started the second half well. although Chris Smalling could have had egg on his face as he attempted a diving header towards De Gea, missing it completely, presumably to not concede a back pass. United recovered from that, though, getting forward, but not yet threatening the home side like they should be doing. United, after a period of good play, doubled their lead through Jesse Lingard with a stunning strike into the top corner, assisted by Juan Mata. United were now cruising towards the victory they needed to take advantage of the demise of Arsenal, which we all saw coming. Boro had a chance at the other end moments later, De Gea stopped it.

In the 69th minute, United made their first change with Marcos Rojo replacing Juan Mata. The Argentinian had some defending to do from his first minute on the pitch in having to defend a Boro set piece, which came to nothing. Boro seemed to find some inspiration late in the game with plenty of attacking play against United, just nothing came of it. United had few chances, seemingly looking to defend their lead after doubling it. Boro got a goal back in the 77th minute of the match through Rudy Gestede after Smalling failed to clear his line. United now needed to keep their heads and the lead. Boro were more resurgent on the attack, deservedly so.

Mourinho made his second change with Anthony Martial replacing Lingard, who seemed to be carrying a slight injury. Martial’s quick feet and ability to beat his man, cut in and score might well be needed in the latter stages of the match with United holding onto their lead by the skin of their teeth, especially with Smalling in the middle of defence having the ability to mess things up for United. There was a bit of beef between Gestede and Eric Bailly in the dying stages of the game with a ticking off for Bailly from Jonathan Moss, not sure what Gestede was told. United scored a third goal with Antonio Valencia rounding Victor Valdes, who did a Gerrard to give United a 3-1 victory. Matteo Darmian replaced

United scored a third goal with Antonio Valencia rounding Victor Valdes, who did a Gerrard to give United a 3-1 victory. Matteo Darmian replaced Rashford two minutes into injury time. United moved up to fifth place in the Premier League now heading into a period of rest for many squad members and time to get ready for April, which will see United play nine matches, first up with West Bromwich Albion visiting Old Trafford.

Goals: Marouane Fellaini 30′, Jesse Lingard 62′

Assists: Ashley Young 30′, Juan Mata 62′

Manchester United: De Gea; Smalling, Jones, Bailly; Valencia, Carrick, Fellaini, Young; Mata (Rojo 69′), Rashford (Darmian 90+2′), Lingard (Martial 80′)

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Fosu-Mensah, Shaw; Mkhitaryan

Bookings: Phil Jones 25′

Team News: Mata, Rashford & Lingard lead the attack; Martial & Shaw on the bench

Manchester United take on Middlesbrough at the Riverside in the Premier League this afternoon in a bid to rise from seventh to fifth place. On Saturday, Arsenal were beaten 3-1 by West Bromwich Albion, giving United another opportunity to better their league position, something they have been given plenty of chances to do, failing to do it. This could be the last chance to do so and Jose Mourinho’s side needs to capitalise. Everton beat Hull City 4-0, pushing United from sixth to seventh, ending their 17 match run in the position. This weekend, United can either find themselves in fifth, or seventh. Mourinho’s side is rather depleted at this moment in time with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera suspended, also with the recent injury to Paul Pogba and the head injury to Daley Blind against Rostov, problems can be found in a lack of reinforcement to the squad. United will have to make do with what they have, ensuring they take all three points away from the Riverside.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Smalling, Jones, Bailly;

Valencia, Carrick, Fellaini, Young;

Mata, Rashford, Lingard

Substitutes:

Romero; Rojo, Fosu-Mensah, Shaw, Darmian; Mkhitaryan; Martial

Middlesbrough:

Valdes;

Barragan, Espinosa, Gibson, Fabio;

De Roon, Clayton, Leadbitter;

Ramirez, Negrado, Downing

Substitutes:

Guzan, Stuani, Fry, Guedioura, Gestede, Forshaw, Traore

Manchester United and Middlesbrough have played a total of 125 matches in all competitions dating back to 1894. United have won 63 times, drawing 28 times with Middlesbrough scalping United 34 times; the last, albeit on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the Capital One Cup on the 28th October 2015. United beat Middlesbrough 2-1 at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve which saw a Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal ruled out, Boro taking the lead and United scoring twice in a minute through Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba, securing the victory four minutes before full-time. United will need to have their heads about them with this manager-less Boro side looking to get themselves out of the relegation zone.

Key Battles: Shaw, Mkhitaryan and Rashford key to beating Boro?

Manchester United will travel to Middlesbrough for the noon kick off on Sunday at the Riverside Stadium in the Premier League with both teams looking for the victory. Jose Mourinho’s side needs to better their sixth-placed Premier League position, of which they will have occupied for 104 days by the time the match comes around. Middlesbrough, fresh from sacking manager Aitor Karanka will be looking to start their turnaround and will be aiming to win their fifth match of the season in a bid, albeit not last-ditch yet, to survive their first season back in the Premier League, which does not look good at this moment in time. Mourinho’s side have been unbeaten in the league since October when they lost 4-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, losing there earlier in the week in the Emirates FA Cup. United played on Thursday night in the UEFA Europa League, beating Rostov 1-0 at Old Trafford to earn a place in the quarter-finals of the competition against Belgian side Anderlecht.

United will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera due to suspension, but injuries will play a part for the Portuguese manager too with Paul Pogba sidelined with a hamstring injury for a fortnight, Daley Blind likely to sit out after suffering a head injury against the Russian side and Bastian Schweinsteiger also remaining on the sidelines through injury. United could well be boosted by the return of both Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney, but nothing is certain on that at this moment in time. Middlesbrough have injuries of their own, which will undoubtedly cause a few problems, but playing a side who have just sacked a manager could pose more problems, especially with Leicester City’s escapades after dispatching Claudio Ranieri last month.

Who will the Key Battles involve at the Riverside on Sunday?

Luke Shaw v Fabio da Silva

Luke Shaw may not have played for Manchester United since the 1-1 draw with Bournemouth at the start of the month, but him being fresh could be good news for Jose Mourinho. For the last three matches now, Jose Mourinho has opted for a five at the back formation, utilising two wing-backs and three central defenders. Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind have been used as wing-backs so far, but Shaw coming back in would be a much better option because of his pace, defensive ability and the fact he can also play a part by going forward. If Shaw does feature, former United player Fabio da Silva could well be faced with a problem, providing he remains as the club’s right-back post-Karanka. Fabio has played well for Boro, making an average of six defensive actions per match, also creating nine chances for his teammates, so he could pose a similar problem to Shaw, but against United.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan v Ben Gibson

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been in some good form this season, scoring seven goals so far, the last against Rostov in Russia just over a week ago. At Old Trafford on Thursday night, the Armenian was unlucky in front of goal, having some great chances, being denied by the keeper, which was unfortunate. Since being dropped after a performance in the Manchester derby earlier in the season, Mkhitaryan has gone from strength to strength earning a starting place in Jose Mourinho’s side, now being seen as the guy who can make the earth move in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Ben Gibson, should he feature under interim manager Steve Agnew, may have to be at his best to thwart the Armenian who has an eye for a spectacular goal of two. United will need to be at the top of their game for this Middlesbrough side who now need to fight for survival, not just to remain in the Premier League next season, but also to keep their places on the team, and more importantly at the club past the summer. Mkhitaryan has created 26 chances for his teammates in the Premier League this season, also averaging two defensive actions per match, maintaining an 84% pass success rate. Gibson has an 85% pass success rate in the league, also averages nine defensive actions per match, which may well be needed against a resurgent United who are looking to grind out victories in order to better their league position this season.

Marcus Rashford v Victor Valdes

Marcus Rashford rose to the occasion over a year ago now by scoring a brace on his UEFA Europa League debut at home to Midtjylland, also scoring a brace three days later at home against Arsenal on his Premier League debut. This season Rashford has scored seven goals in all competitions, which is not a bad turnover of goals considering he has played as a winger most of the time. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic still suspended for the next two domestic matches, Rashford will be given the nod to lead the line as the most threatening attacker, which could see him pitted against former United goalkeeper Victor Valdes. The Spanish UEFA Champions League winner, who was highly decorated in his time playing for Barcelona and Spain left United as a free agent in the summer after being frozen out by then manager Louis van Gaal, also having a period on loan with Standard Liege before signing for fellow Spaniard Aitor Karanka may be at risk of being humiliated by Rashford, providing he is on point and predatory in front of goal. Of course, Valdes may lose his place to Brad Guzan, as has been the case recently.

Preview: Fatigue or a defeat not an option as United head to Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough v Manchester United

Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough

Premier League 2016/17

Sunday 19th March 2017; KO 12:00 GMT

Live on BT Sport

Manchester United face Middlesbrough at the Riverside at noon on Sunday, less than three days after their 1-0 (2-1 aggregate) victory over Russian side FC Rostov in the UEFA Europa League, earning a quarter-final against Belgian side Anderlecht next month. United had a tough week, losing to Chelsea in the Emirates FA Cup at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening, which saw Ander Herrera sent off and being his second of the season so far, being suspended for the next two domestic matches. On Thursday evening, United lost Paul Pogba to a hamstring injury, which will keep him out of action for a fortnight, also missing the international break, which can only be a good thing, especially with the tougher period coming from April which could see United playing a maximum of 17 matches, providing they go all the way to the final in the Europa League.

Middlesbrough may not have had a good week either. Aitor Karanka was sacked on Thursday, meaning Steve Agnew will steer the club into the match against United, which could go either of two ways; Boro continue to lose matches or all of a sudden, they pull something out of the bag and shock Jose Mourinho’s side, which would be about right from these players who seem to orchestrate the sacking of a manager, being whiter than white at the same time, it would see the players are never wrong and therefore are untouchable. Recently, by sacking a manager, Leicester City have found some good form winning twice in the Premier League, and earning a quarter-final place in the UEFA Champions League. United need to find some greater form. Being unbeaten in the league since October is alright, but if United were winning even half of their matches, of which they have drawn eight since then, their season story could be so different.

United would be sitting in second place, nine points adrift of league leaders Chelsea, which would put them in the unlikely position for a title charge, but needlessly a better position then they are ahead of the Boro match, which will see them occupying the sixth place in the league for 104 consecutive days in total. Sixth is not a great position in the league, but when you take into account that United have two fewer matches than Liverpool who are six points better off, one fewer than Chelsea (17 points better off), Tottenham Hotspur, and Manchester City who are both seven points better off, it shows that the route into the top four is not all that tough. United are also a point adrift of fifth-placed Arsenal.

Mourinho’s side still have to face Chelsea (16th April), Arsenal (provisionally 6th May), Tottenham Hotspur (provisionally 13th May) and still have the Manchester derby to be arranged by the Premier League, which along with the Southampton clash, also to be arranged, can fit into two spots this season, if United made it through Anderlecht in the Europa League and then into the final, whoever their opposition would be in the semi-finals. Fatigue is something which has already struck at United with Mourinho suggesting it played a part during the 1-0 victory over Rostov at Old Trafford on Thursday. The manager spoke about the problems, saying:

“I was afraid of extra time and some players were in trouble. I know that I can bring Rashford to the game, but at the same time I am afraid because I have at least Marcos Rojo in big trouble. It was a difficult game. We have lots of enemies. Normally the enemy should be Rostov but we have lots of enemies. It is difficult to play on Monday night with 10 men, it is difficult to play now, it is difficult to play on Sunday at 12 o’clock, so we have lots of enemies. The boys were fantastic. I can imagine some people will say we should play better, we could play better, we should score more goals, we should not have so many difficulties to beat this opponent, but the reality is we have lots of things going against us and we have to fight. The boys are amazing and we will probably lose the game on Sunday but we will try our best.”

Match Officials:

Jonathan Moss will referee the match between Middlesbrough and Manchester United on Sunday. This will be the third time in the Premier League this season he has been the referee in a United fixture after overseeing the 1-0 victory over Hull City back in August, the 1-1 draw against West Ham United in November and then this match. Moss was also the referee in the EFL Cup clash with Hull City back in January which saw United beaten 2-1, but into the final on aggregate. Moss issued eight yellow cards in the three matches that have been played, booking Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford against Hull in the league, Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Antonio Valencia against West Ham and Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo against Hull in the EFL Cup. Moss was slated for not awarding penalties in United’s favour against Hull in January. Moss’ assistant referees will be Simon Bennett and Eddie Smart with the fourth official named as Robert Madley.

Form:

Manchester United LDDWW: Jose Mourinho’s side have been unbeatable in the Premier League since October when they suffered a 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Chelsea. Being unbeatable is not necessarily a good thing though as the same United side have drawn eight times in the league since then, seemingly not having enough to find that winning goal to beat their opposition. Just four of those draws being turned into wins could have seen United eight points better off this season, which at this current time would have propelled them into second place, a point better off than Tottenham Hotspur and with a game in hand over them. United, though, have had a good season. The squad seems happy, willing to play for the manager and some decent signings have been made. The next transfer window should tell more of a story as to what Mourinho has in his plans for his club.

Middlesbrough LLLWD: Middlesbrough have not had the greatest of seasons on their return to the Premier League, currently sitting 19th and likely to be relegated if the team does not pull something out of the bag after the Aitor Karanka was sacked earlier this week. The North East side have only won four Premier League matches this season, the last a 3-0 drumming of Swansea City, who at the time were having problems of their own – now sitting three points clear of the drop zone. Boro have drawn ten and lost 13 matches, which is certain to grow as the weeks pass, unless the players did a ‘Chelsea’ and stopped playing for the manager, then grinding results as we saw with the Londoners and most recently Leicester City, who sacked Claudio Ranieri, then beat Liverpool and Hull 3-1, also turning a 2-1 defeat into a 3-2 aggregate victory over Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League, earning a quarter-final place against Atletico Madrid.

Former Reds: A meeting with some old friends, this time as foes!

Victor Valdes and Fabio da Silva could be pitted against some former Manchester United teammates if they are both selected in Steve Agnew’s matchday squad to entertain the Red Devils at the Riverside on Sunday. Valdes left United as a free agent in the summer after signing an 18-month deal under the management of Louis van Gaal, making his Premier League debut at the end of the 2014/15 season. Valdes was frozen out of the United squad under the Dutch manager the following season, opting to go on loan with Standard Liege in January 2016, leaving United as a free agent at the end of last season. Fabio signed for United with twin Rafael back in 2008 and made 56 appearances, scoring three goals. He left on loan with Queens Park Rangers in the 2012/13, leaving the club permanently for Cardiff City the following summer. Fabio signed for Middlesbrough last summer. His twin, Rafael left for Lyon in the summer of 2015.

Who are the Manchester United and Middlesbrough Top Scorers this season?

Manchester United: 26 – Zlatan Ibrahimović, 10 – Juan Mata, 7 – Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, 5 – Wayne Rooney, 4 – Jesse Lingard, 2 – Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Chris Smalling, 1 – Daley Blind, Own Goal, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Bastian Schweinsteiger

Middlesbrough: 7 – Álvaro Negredo, 5 – Cristhian Stuani, 3 – Marten de Roon, Grant Leadbitter, 2 – Stewart Downing, Gastón Ramírez, 1 – Daniel Ayala, Calum Chambers, Rudy Gestede, Ben Gibson, David Nugent

Team News:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera are both suspended for the next two domestic matches; Middlesbrough (A) and West Bromwich Albion (H). Paul Pogba has been ruled out of this match after suffering what seemed like a hamstring injury against Rostov on Thursday night and he also looks set to miss the entire international break, which could see him back in action in early April. Daley Blind seemed to suffer a head injury against the Russian side too, which could see him also sidelined for this match. Bastian Schweinsteiger could be another absentee with United suffering a midfield crisis with Herrera also suspended. Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial could both be back in action, giving United further options in the attack, or even in midfield where Rooney is concerned. Middlesbrough interim boss Steve Agnew will be without Rudy Gestede, Bernardo Espinosa, Daniel Ayala, George Friend and Callum Chambers, which leaves them quite light for the visit of United, who will be looking to take their chance to move further forward in their bid to escape 104 days at sixth place in the league.

Previous Meetings:

Middlesbrough and Manchester United have played 123 matches; the first being played on the 27th January 1894 – a 4-0 victory for United in the FA Cup. United have won a total of 63 matches, drawing 28 and losing just 34. The last time Middlesbrough beat United was on the 28th October 2015 after a 0-0 draw in the League Cup with Boro winning 3-1 on penalties. The last victory inside 90 minutes goes back to the 29th October 2005 when Boro demolished United 4-1 with a brace from Gaizka Mendieta, another goal from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and a penalty scored by Yakubu Ayegbeni. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal scored by United. United beat Middlesbrough 2-1 at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve in an ill-tempered match which saw a perfectly adequate Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal disallowed, then Boro taking the lead through Grant Leadbitter in the 67th minute. United scored through Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba a minute apart in the 85th and 86th minute to give United all three points. Jose Mourinho will be looking for a similar scoreline from United in their first visit to the Riverside in nearly eight years, winning 2-0 back on the 2nd May 2009 with Ryan Giggs and Ji-Sung Park scoring both of the goals.

Starting XI Prediction: Who is going to start against Middlesbrough?

Predicted Score:

Middlesbrough 1-3 Manchester United

copyright: JW